A torch is used to light the Olympic flame at the Squaw Valley Opening Ceremony. (Getty Images)
(ATR) A 1960 Squaw Valley torch and a 1924 Chamonix ticket are among the rarities in the latest mail bid auction.
The 1960 torch, No. 12 of 23, carries a minimum bid of $175,000 in the Ingrid O’Neil auction closing Saturday. To see the auction, which has 653 items ranging from pins to medals to a ceremonial sword, go to IONeil.com
O’Neil tells Around the Rings
that the Squaw Valley torch came from a private collection, with the owner choosing to sell “because he realized how high some of these winter torches have gone. Compare the 23 Squaw Valley torches to the tens of thousands we have now.”
A similar Squaw Valley torch sold for $286,000. Several years ago, however, O’Neil offered one that did not crack the $100,000 mark, a sign that demand has increased exponentially for rarer Olympic items.
Fewer than 100 torches were produced for the 1952 Oslo Olympics, and this torch, which measures more than 12 inches at its widest point, has an estimate of $85,000. (All items in the O’Neil auction also command a 15 percent buyer’s premium.)
A more recent torch from the 1988 Calgary Olympics is also scarce with a minimum bid of $39,000. The 6,520 torchbearers shared about 100 torches.
“They hardly come up any more,” O’Neil says. “The organizing committee destroyed the torches that they still had after the Games, though nobody knows how many.”
Compared to these torches, the 1924 Chamonix ticket is a bargain with a minimum bid of $5,800.
“That is so rare – I have never seen one before,” O’Neil says. “The paper is very thin, very fragile.”
The green ticket is for speedskating on the third day of Olympic competition and is essential to a complete Olympic ticket collection. It is the highest price O’Neil has ever started an Olympic ticket.
A 1928 St. Moritz ticket, stamped to indicate a reduced price for members of Swiss sports associations, is $1,800.
The British two-man bobsleigh team greets visitors to the 1956 Cortina Olympics. (Getty Images)
Plenty of Medals
O’Neil has more than 40 Olympic medals and a wide selection of Paralympic medals, including a 2012 London gold for athletics ($9,750).
A 1924 Chamonix bronze medal, which was also the participation medal for the first winter games, and a 1928 St. Moritz silver medal are each estimated at $15,000.
A bronze medal from the 1956 Cortina Olympics, which has a brown-green patina that some collectors find unattractive, has an estimate of only $3,000.
A 1906 Athens gold medal in its original case has a minimum of $9,000. The gold-plated silver medal has the same design as 1896 medals, except the date has been changed. However, only silver and bronze medals were struck for 1896.
From the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, O’Neil offers gold ($5,000) and silver ($4,000) medals marked “souvenir,” as well as 12 winners medals from the studio of Julio Kilenyi, who designed the Los Angeles participation medal. O’Neil says that since the winners medal design by Giuseppe Cassioli was used, Kilenyi could only have worked on the legend.
O’Neil hopes to attract collectors to Paralympic Games items with 23 lots, including medals, torches and mascots.
“They’re much less expensive than Olympic winner’s medals and hopefully some people will start collecting Paralympic,” she says. “It’s amazing how few collectors there are for Paralympic items.”
Other Classic Items
A 1912 Stockholm silver participation medal that O'Neil says was presented to William M. Sloane, a founding member of the IOC and first U.S. member, is still in its original brown leather case ($5,000). Only 100 medals were struck in silver and presented to high dignitaries.
The 1924 Paris gold medal winner’s vase produced by the porcelain factory of Sevres is one of the more beautiful examples of Olympic memorabilia. The vases were made in several versions to accommodate different Olympic events – this one has wrestling, boxing, shot put and javelin – and were presented to champions by the Paris City Council. The estimate is $15,000.
Collectors looking for items related to modern Games founder Pierre de Coubertin can bid on a hand-written dedication in a 1936 German book. Coubertin wrote the nine lines in French in 1937, several weeks before he died, to Werner Klingeberg, who worked in the organization of the Berlin torch relay. The estimate is $1,250.
“Coubertin letters come up every few years,” O’Neil says.
Also from 1936, a signed presentation copy of a book by Leni Riefenstahl, the Olympic filmmaker, has a minimum of $2,000.
The two-volume 2012 London Official Report, which was never made available to the public, is $2,000.
“Hardly anyone got it,” O’Neil says.
One item that does come up for sale with more regularity that one might expect is the Congressional medal awarded to members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team who did participate in Moscow because of the boycott.
The medal, estimated at $1,250, is gold-plated bronze. Other congressional medals are solid gold.
“The athletes were very upset,” O’Neil says. “I remember very well they were insulted. There’s so much history behind what you find out, always something that you never knew.”
London Medal Donated
A London gold medal donated by an anonymous benefactor will raise money for a bomb blast injury research centre in the Grand Centenary Charity Auction in September 2015.
David James, of James & Sons Auctioneers in Fakenham, Norfolk, told the BBC that the medal was left in an envelope at a valuation event in Suffolk. The envelope had the initials of the Royal British Legion.
“It is definitely genuine,” he told the BBC. “It’s howlingly rare so it’s almost impossible to value. I hope it will make a lot of money.”
James believes the medal belonged to a LOCOG official. It is not inscribed with a sports event and the Royal Mint told the BBC that “there were some remaining medals which were returned to the organizing committee of the Olympic Games.”
The Royal Mint produced about 4,700 Olympic and Paralympic medals. Because athletes nowadays are often awarded prize money by their National Olympic Committees in addition to training funds, they are not as desperate for money and less inclined to sell their medals.
Written by Karen Rosen
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